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Orinoco -

The Inception of the Edge

So here we are, it is now Wednesday the 21st September 2011. The juggling world is in turmoil, the JIS is a relic, IJDb is facing retirement, Juggling Universe is really not what I want. So I've spent the last few days furiously hacking PHP code & this is what I've come up with.

For my first big post I'm going to write a bit about this site's inception & then explain some of my design decisions. I write this with the framework for Small Talk, Big Talk & the Social Connections in place.

So who remembers Zuko?

I've been an editor for the IJDb since I can't remember when. One of the sections I edit is the links section. Over the years I have seen many many new juggling forums enter the database. These forums inevitably offer the same flat threaded discussion system across a multitude of narrowly defined categories. A dozen or so people sign up, a few even post. The single figure thread counts & 2 week+ last post dates ensure that no one bothers to click into the sub forum or any of the threads. These forums usually exit the IJDb via the weekly dead link trawl a year or so later.

With this insider knowledge I've always found the constantly recurring threads that appear on rec.juggling suggesting that we should all move to yet another generic BB forum very tedious. I must admit though I've found the ones demanding that we do so quite amusing.

When the legend that is Colin announced a few years ago that he was looking for someone to take over the development of the IJDb. I was definitely interested, but having gone through the code for PHP Headliner (the code behind the rec.juggling portal) I dismissed the idea as way out of my league. But no one else has stepped up, & now there is the possibility that the IJDb may shut down. I totally understand Colin's notion that the IJDb is looking tired & dated. For everything except the rec.juggling portal I agree. But it is a fine testament to Colin's original vision & enormous effort that the IJDb is still the best juggling site on the internet.

For me rec.juggling is the heart of the IJDb & the reason the site is so popular. I only ever visit other sections in my role as editor. Lately, like many people I've become more fed up with the increase of spam, but more so I have become fed up with all the threads that involved people trying to explain what rec.juggling is. So perhaps it is time to try something new.

I've had ideas for a new kind of forum swimming around in my head for years, but on 14th September 2011 I was soaking in the bath when something clicked (I'm getting old) & I really started gathering my thoughts together. Taking inspiration from the IJDb, edge.org, b3ta, the Orion Syndicate from ST:DS9 (seriously), Sun Tzu, the pub,
Worgl's depreciating currency, God Emperor Leto II & the Bene Gesserit to name but a few I scribbled down loads of ideas. Over the next 5 days I entered a manic phase of hacking resulting in the bare bones of a discussion site. During this phase I went a bit mad. I was getting home from work, hitting the code until the wee small hours, lying wide awake in bed mentally building the site's structure & mapping out future features. Drunk on a creative streak I did some strange things, some of my friends expressed concern about a particularly bizarre Facebook post.


So what's this all about then?

I want a better discussion system, one based on how we naturally communicate in real life.

Take any of the BB forums that come up. At a minimum they usually have separate sub forums for each of the main props - balls, clubs, rings, diabolo, devilstick, cigar boxes etc., another for festivals, another for videos, one for admin & one for off topic conversation. Now think about this in a real life situation - imagine walking into a pub to find separate tables labeled with a topic of conversation. If you want to know what people are talking about you need to visit all the tables in turn, in this theoretical pub that involves a lot of walking, in the online forum this means a lot of pages to click though. What do you do if what you want to talk about doesn't fit into one of the categories? Or fits into several categories?

When we go to the pub after TWJC we pull all the tables together so that everyone sits together in a group. You can hear several conversations at once & dip in & out as you wish. There is nothing we don't talk about. Sometimes we talk about juggling.

From this I've come up with:


Small Talk

The small talk section is the light hearted conversations we have at the bar, around the Edge of the juggling hall, by the campfire, in the hot tub, on the stage after Renegade. Nothing is off topic because there is no topic.

The threads are fully threaded because tangents are great & you can have multiple conversations at once.

All messages are visible on one page so you don't have to click into each message individually. If everything is visible you can passively take in conversations rather than having to actively monitor them. As you scroll down the page a phrase may catch your eye, similar to how you will catch your name from someone telling a story about you at the other end of the bar.

There are no avatars or signatures. You don't talk to people in real life permanently holding up your favourite picture nor do you finish every sentence with the exact same witty one liner.

Sometimes though you want something a little more serious, so...


Big Talk

The big talk section is designed in a way to be taken more seriously. I've put in some constraints that I think will focus discussion. These constraints will undoubtedly irritate some people but I'd really like to run with this to see how it works.

The biggest constraint is the system of timers. If you want to create a new thread or reply to an existing message you must first activate a timer. This will run for 24 hours & only when this time has expired may you actually post your message. This extra hoop to jump through will mean that only those who really have something to say will actually post. Those who want to reply will have to take the time to think about what they are going to say before they say it.

The timers will also hopefully do away with the redundant 'Me too! LOL' posts because it's really not worth it.

Each big post has its own page that you have to click into, so in this section you do have to actively click in to participate. Because there is only one message per page the reader has less distractions allowing them to focus on reading the message & only that message. At the bottom is a fully threaded tree showing the reader where they are in the conversation.

When posting a new reply you have to go through a preview first, hopefully this will act as a forced quality control stage.

You can also save & come back to your post later.

Think of big talk as the 'Slow Post Movement'.


It's like Social, & a network

Since the advent of Facebook a lot of sites have jumped on the social network bandwagon, but only to the extent that you can log in & designate other users as a 'friend'. Thus reducing social interaction to nothing more than a one to many relationship in a database. Again, to me this doesn't really match how we behave in real life.

On most sites you can become a friend at the click of a button, in the real world it takes a little more work & friends require maintenance. You have to get to know them, & if you don't bother to keep in touch they will drift off.

Social Connections

So instead of the click here for instant friendship I've set up a system that builds relationships based on genuine interactions. There are various different ways of interacting with another user, each action is assigned a score depending on how important it is. As these actions take place a running total is logged against each person you interact with.

So for example your first interaction will be an invite, this receives a high score because to be invited the inviter must obviously know & like you. This gives you easy access to a friend to help you settle in. After that viewing people's profiles, reading their big posts & replying to other people's posts builds & maintains relationships.

Other interactions will appear with more features of the site.

This feature will highlight users that you like interacting with (otherwise you wouldn't interact with them). These people may or may not be people you know or indeed like.

Periodically these scores will be automatically reduced, new friends will replace old.

Click here if you like this.


So waddya think?

If you've got this far I'm pretty certain that you'll agree that I have put a lot of thought into this. I'm very nervous about unleashing this into the wild, but also very excited. I've never done anything on this scale before. So please, start a timer, think about my oddball ideas & let me know what you think.

fak - - Parent

Re: The Inception of the Edge

OK, this is a first thought response (not necessarily what you might be aiming for with Big Talk, but there you go). I'm just going to go through some main points and state my thoughts, concerns, etc. Be not downhearted if things sound more negative than positive. I'm going to use the headers you used instead of having to quote (since there doesn't seem to be a good way to distinguish between quoted and unquoted text without getting into html stuff). Apologies if my own html stuff doesn't work (I'm only going to try and bold text).

So what's this all about then?

Are you looking to entirely replace rec.juggling or is this intended to be supplemental, or entirely standalone? If it is intended as a replacement or a standalone I think there might be scope for a medium talk, but more on that later.

Small Talk

I like the idea of Small Talk as a threaded chat room (LP's description). It reminds me somewhat of Ravelry's radar system (this probably won't be the last reference to Ravelry that I make, seeing as that's where I spend a lot of my time online). Their system has a scrolling page of (almost) all posts being made on the site (groups can opt out of being displayed). You get the thread title, the username (and avatar) and the content of the post (as well as its location). You can then choose to follow it back to its original home and comment from there (in the form of a reply or through the "voting" buttons: agree, disagree, interesting, educational, love). It's a real time way of seeing what conversations are going on.

Does anyone have any stats on how many posts/threads r.j gets per hour? At the moment my understanding is that the 5 most recently started threads/chats will display on the small talk page, but to see new comments on older threads/chats you actively have to go look for them. An option to be able to see all new comments since last login might be nice/helpful, or a way to "watch" specific threads/chats without having to have that specific thread/chat in a separate tab/page/bookmark. Something that would be more helpful as volume increases. Without such a feature my concern would be that you would get a lot of threads/chats (not sure of the terminology, but whatever is used will help lead people as to how to use Small Talk) that get pushed off the main Small Talk page without people really seeing them during high volume times. This could be discouraging for posters, or could lead to repeated postings to try and get heard (not sure which is more annoying).

I like the lack of avatar and sig, a username is enough for me.

Big Talk

I like the idea of Big Talk as a counter to Small Talk, and I like the idea of having a timer before you can post. But. Not sure if this is teething glitches, but my 24 hour timer took a lot longer than 24 hours to complete, not sure what is going on with the sever's internal time-keeping. Were I not pretty damned committed to making a comment (since I've been invited) I probably would have got frustrated and not bothered. I appreciate that this is a large part of the point of the timer, but worry that 24+ hours may be too long for a lot of people who might have good input. Something I'm sure that can be experimented with.

Remember of course that there is nothing to force an individual to actually think for the timer period. They can easily write a response, save it somewhere, then cut and paste it once the timer period has elapsed. Or they can do what I am doing now, which is wait until the timer period has elapsed and then type their response without doing any thinking in between.

Obviously hard to tell right now, but I mentioned earlier whether there is middle ground between Small and Big Talk where topics/discussions might get lost. Everyone's going to have a different idea of what is suitable for Small and Big and might just end up posting in neither (probably one for consideration when more people are using it).

Since there hasn't been a reply yet to a Big Talk topic I'm a little fuzzy about how it will display. My personal preference would be to be able to see responses all on the same page as the original post to save having to flick around to follow thoughts (which brings me back to being able to distinguish between quoted and unquoted text easily - remember that people are lazy, if they have to do a load of things themselves they probably won't, adding html coding is a bit of a pain from my ipad, for example, as the angle brackets are on a different screen to the main keyboard).

It's like Social, & a network - Social Connections

Not knowing how the scoring works, it's a little hard to comment on this, but it would seem there is no difference between a friendly connection and an unfriendly connection. If two people are frequently getting into back-and-forths it may be because they are polar opposites, the only connection being that they can't let the other have the last word.

Ravrelry has the option of friending people (essentially like following someone on Twitter), this gives you easy access to their publicly available data, primarily updates about their activity on the site (posting pictures, favourting patterns, stuff related to the crafting side of the site rather than the chatting side though it does have a blog aggregator function). It also suggests neighbours based on shared likes. All a bit hard to explain and not features I use much myself (or that would be relevant here unless additional features such as adding blogs or creating lists of favourite videos/books/etc are likely to be added in the future) other than keeping track of what people on my friends lists are making and what they are liking (in terms of queueing and favouriting patterns) as a source of inspiration (the Ravelry pattern database is currently standing at 240,829 with more beind added all of the time, no way for one person to keep on top of all of the new additions).

So those are some initial thoughts for you. Time to find out what the "Save and preview" buttom does... Ah it gives you the chance to re-read your post, then either edit, delete or submit it. Good to know.

Orinoco - - Parent

Re: The Inception of the Edge

Thank you Fak. Your response is exactly what I am aiming for with Big Talk - well thought out & well written.

To address one of your personal concerns first. I want to add an auto HTML feature where you select text in the editing field, a toolbar will appear with buttons for bold, italic etc. which when clicked insert the start & end tags around the selected text. For a link button if the text selected is a URL then it opens a prompt box to type in the link text, if it is a word or phrase it will ask for the URL & create the link accordingly. This should make composing much easier. But I want to get a lot further down the line before I start adding javascript bells & whistles so that people who browse without script (I assume there must still be some people) still get a functional website.

This toolbar will include a button for formatting quoted text which should help with your concern about ease of quoting.

That said I don't envision quoting to be a big part of Big Talk, what I'd like to see happen (but I will of course adapt to whatever does happen) is for this section to become like the newspapers of the early nineteenth century where the distinguished thinkers of the time would write open letters to each other. The assumption being that the audience has read the preceding material & will only need a gentle jog to recall it. I think the modern practice of quoting text from previous posts encourages the user to skip text because they know anything important will be quoted again later. This means that the reader misses out on possibly important context.


So what's this all about then?

Would I like to replace rec.juggling/IJDb? Yes. I think usenet has had its day, in the beginning usenet was great because you could set your 13k modem to download all the posts & read offline at your leisure. Because everything was so slow it didn't matter how long it took for a message to propagate through the network. Now with always on broadband people want a more instantaneous medium. They also want embedded videos & kitten pictures. The IJDb is similarly starting to fall behind people's needs. It doesn't do anything wrong, but as I hope you'll see later on in this post when I outline some of the features I want to put in place, things could be done better.

Small Talk

Your description of Ravelry sounds quite a bit like where I'm trying to go, actions in other sections will link back to posts in Small Talk. I already have the ability to watch threads/festivals/clubs etc. on my to do list.

With regards to terminology where possible I'm trying (& failing) to not use any, with time people will settle on what feels right & I'm going to run with that. At present I think of everything in Big Talk as posts everything in Small Talk as messages. Not sure why.

For reference, the average posts per day for 2011 as taken from here , the per hour average works out between 1 & 3:

Jan55.65
Feb49.14
Mar42.68
Apr40.73
May42.58
Jun34.20
Jul28.48
Aug32.94
Sep30.40

I think these numbers will dwarf Big Talk activity, but be a lot less than Small Talk activity.


Big Talk

I completely understand that the timer will be a contentious feature. Although in this case I imagine a large part of your frustration would have come from the timer not expiring when you thought it would, possibly to the server using random timezones. This will of course be fixed, if I can convince myself that this is worth pursuing I will be shifting this place to a paid host where I can play around with the timezones.

I've already mentioned on the Small that my timer for this post definitely only restricted posting for 24 hours, & the one I've got ticking for The Void's post seems to be running as expected but I will keep checking with each post.

I also accept that the timer doesn't necessarily make one think about what they will post, but I believe that it will work some, hopefully most, of the time.

I believe the uncertainty of what goes where will disappear. Bear in mind that at time of writing we have all of 5 users who have all come in to an empty community, when you first joined there was only the one post in Big Talk to look at. At present there is very little reference material. Whereas if you visit an established community you can lurk for a few days to pick up on the social norms of the site.


The Social Stuff

In terms of scoring the mechanics are provisionally as follows:

Invite user +100
View profile/big post +1
Reply to post +3
Once a week -10

Once I settle on some optimal numbers they will disappear they are only displayed for testing purposes at present.

It is correct to note that there is no distinction between friendly/unfriendly connections which is why I chose the word 'connections' over 'friends'. Again this is something new that I've not seen before & would like to try, if it doesn't work out regular following/friending can easily be put in place.


The Golden Path

So where do I think I'm going? There is a lot of work that I have planned.

The most important thing for me is to get Small Talk & Big Talk to be the best they can be. I want Small Talk to be the core of the site, the bit that people drop in to every day during their lunch break. I want Big Talk to be the evening/weekend reading. I want to make people think. Before the go live I want to write to lots of interesting people with a suggestion for a post they & only they could contribute to Big Talk (eg. Mike Armstrong - On being a BYJOTY judge. What acts does he feel have come the closest? What could they have done to go that little bit further? Why does the audience boo when the "no gold awards this year" announcement is made. More suggestions welcome).

Upcoming features for Small Talk:

Best of Small Talk, click a link to nominate a thread as interesting/funny/otherwise good. These nominations will be passed to the Majordomos Squirrels or higher & once approved the first post & link to the thread will appear down the right hand side of index page.

Prompts, to encourage chatter I want to present users with opportunities to post on Small Talk. The first that I will put in will be when a user submits a big post they will be taken to the smallpost screen with an auto generated link to their post & a message inviting them to shout about it. Similarly if someone lists them self as a member of a juggling club that meets on Tuesday, when they log in on Wednesday or Thursday I will put a box somewhere with the question "How was juggling last night?", similar prompts can be used for after festivals, shows etc.

Watch thread, click a link on a thread to start a watch. Any new posts that appear since you last logged out will be listed on your index page.

All new posts, a separate page that lists all new small posts since you last logged out.

Green Eggs Report, list of links posted to Small Talk.

Because Big Talk is quite an experimental section I don't have much planned for it at present.

Awards

The next major section I will work on, simply for the reason that it doesn't exist anywhere else in the community as far as I know is awards. Each profile will have a "Nominate this person for an award" link which will take you to a screen where you can select a category & enter a name & brief outline of the award. The categories will be based on real world verifiable achievements such as festival organisers, BYJOTY award winners, IJA medalists, WJF champions, BKO title holders etc. Awards will be verified by a Majordomos Squirrel or higher before they appear anywhere. I want a badge for each category of award, these badges will be displayed on user's profiles.

Events

The events listings at the IJDb function well enough as a reference point, but I feel that a community site should do a lot more to promote festivals. Taking a recurring festival like Crawley as an example - in 2012 Dave Law comes here & posts the details. Potential attendees can watch the festival to see updates such as when pre-reg opens/closes on their index page. When 2013 rolls around to make it easier for Dave he can copy last year's festival details & just edit the dates/prices for the next event. People who watched last year's event will automatically be watching the new event too & will therefore get the pre-reg notification & other news.

Watches will of course be easily removed by the user.

I would also put in the ability to say which festivals you are going/have been to which is a fun badge of honour.

Eventually I'd like to collect & store post-festival data such as attendance figures, budget etc. as a resource for future organisers, but I think we all know what a can of worms that is & not something I want to get bogged down in right now.

Clubs

Similar to events I want club listings to be more interactive. I've kept a blog of TWJC club nights for years. Off the back of that I've had many a comment from infrequent visitors to say that they find it really useful because it is a really clear signal that the club is still going, much more so than the current IJDb traffic light system. So I want to link Edge activity back to a club. This could be a Small Talk post from the, "How was juggling last night?" prompt or an entry into a club's Gladiator Leaderboard. If a club has had no activity for 3 months then I'll prompt all members who have said they juggle there with an, "Is this club still meeting?" message. Users will be able to see a stream of activity for each club.

Gladiator Leaderboards

At TWJC everyone used to attack me because the perception was that I always won. So I created this to prove that it wasn't true. I kept scores religiously, in this time the quality of play shot up immensely. For many people even scoring a point made them really happy. I haven't run the leaderboard this year because I missed out a lot of club nights for personal reasons at the start of the year plus I don't want any more of a public record showing how I get trounced by Simon every week.

As for other IJDb sections I have no plans for videos - Youtube, Vimeo, JTV have that well & truly covered. The links section has been replaced by search engines. Vendors - again search engines do a better job & as editor at the IJDb I've always been disappointed with how little most vendors verify their details any way. I have no intention to fight battles I can't win (Sun Tzu).

I believe Small Talk already trumps the chat room. The FAQ/compendium I hope will be replaced with Big Talk content. Records, I have no strong feelings on this one but I could implement this with no problems.

fak - - Parent

Re: The Inception of the Edge

HTML
Thanks for the update about the planned auto html features (and for the reminders below the post box in Small Talk with the link to the sandbox - I don't see it here in Big Talk though).

Quoting

I disagree that quoting text means that people skip reading posts. Teal deer 1 (which are the most likely creatures to be found in Big Talk) are always prone to be skimmed. I participate in a couple of debate boards on Rav (sign up, have a look round) and even though posts are threaded (and you can click easily to see the text of the post being replied to), I find it enormously helpful to be able to quote exactly which points I am commenting on. It cuts down on a lot of confusion. I also personally like to be able to refer back to the original text when composing a message (I have your post open in another window at the moment) so that I can check what has been said and that I'm not misunderstanding/misremembering/misrepresenting it in my response. But that may well be a personal preference.

So what's this all about then?

Replacing IJDb I think is a reasonable goal, replacing rec.juggling may be trickier. The IJDb can always be mothballed (put into statis if is isn't removed), but as long as usenet exists there will be rec.juggling and there will always be people who prefer using r.j. (for the reasons they have mentioned many times). Are you looking to persuade the people who like r.j to move over to this format? If so, how? If not, well r.j. will continue on. I don't mean to sound negative, but r.j. has continued despite many different sites trying to tempt people away. The only ones that I can think of that have been successful (i.e. are still going some time after launch) are the Gatto and WJF forums, and they are filling a niche with members still posting to r.j. for topics that fall outside that niche.

The Golden Path

This all sounds great. My personal priority to getting Small and Big Talk up and running well would be to bring in a way to see activity since last visit (I see it is on the list).

Best of Small Talk sounds a little like This Week in Ravelry (I warned you the Ravelry comparisons would be plentiful). On a regular basis (was once a week, now about once a month) a newsletter type thing would be issued highlighting things that had happened on the site. It might be a new group, it might include site updates, some tips on using the site, there was a forum funnies section, a fibrey agony aunt section. Personally I never bothered with it, but lots of other people seemed to like it. Something similar could work here (once everything's in place) with focuses on props, best videos, funniest Small Talk comment, most controversial Big Talk comment, highlighting a club, maybe an interview with a member, a festival review etc. Members could be encouraged to make submissions to minimise the amount of work someone else would need to do in order to pull it all together. This could also be something that brings people to the site, a sort of online magazine, but community generated.

I really like the idea of prompts as a way of generating Small Talk content, could it be something users can opt in/out of?

I guess I still worry that there is a gap between Small Talk and Big Talk that r.j. will continue to fill, but I've already mentioned that once so will stop harping on about it.


1: Teal deer - tl;dr - too long; didn't read

Orinoco - - Parent

Re: The Inception of the Edge

Noted on the quoting. As I say you already have the <q> tag at your disposal, I'll make it look pretty at some point. Would having a copy of the message you are replying to on the same screen (like Small Talk at present) help? I'm not convinced that it will help because the size of posts is generally going to be much larger here in Big Talk (I also have your message in another tab & I flip between the two. I could potentially replicate that behaviour within the page, but I am not a fan of replicating browser functionality).

On 'replacing' rec.juggling

Maybe I need to set my timer for 48 hours+. What do I mean... I have no delusions that it is possible to start a new forum that will cause the entire IJDb membership to delete their accounts & switch just like that. I want to replace rec.juggling for myself on a personal level. At present if I want to talk to jugglers I have to use rec.juggling or Facebook, & I don't particularly like using either. Rec.Juggling at the moment seems to be overwhelmingly: [Video], some youtube link, multiple one liner "great video" variant responses. This doesn't interest me. If I want videos I'll go to Youtube/JTV. Facebook is designed to meet the average needs of 800 million people, which means the needs of the 100,000 or so jugglers that I care about are being diluted by the needs of 799.9 million others.

I am not on a crusade to convert rec.jugglers. Using rec.juggling is not a sin & rec.jugglers do not need to be taught the error of their ways. I just want to attract interesting jugglers with something to say. I don't care where they come from. To do this (when the site is Ready™) I will be approaching lots of interesting people personally, I will try to pique their interest with one or two thought provoking questions & ask that they contribute a Big Post. I will not be standing up in rec.juggling & shouting, "Come & use my forum!" As I said in my original Big Post I am well aware how many discussion forums have failed, I would even go as far as to say I'm more aware than most people. Which is why I won't be repeating their mistakes.

I agree on the 'view activity since last visit' option, however this may be trickier than I thought. Originally I wanted to capture the last visit datetime when a user logs out. Turns out only 3 of us bother to do so...

I have tried to sign up to Ravelry a few times now, each time I click sign up it goes back to the sign up page with no indication as to why.

Prompts will indeed be opt in.

I'm not sure I understand your concern about rec.juggling filling a gap. Surely that is a good thing? If rec.juggling provides you with value that's good isn't it? Personally I get little value out of rec.juggling now, & haven't done for years, but despite that you'll notice rec.juggling is an auto linked keyword here. I do this to provide a service because I know it is important to a lot of people. I also provide links to JTV, Juggling Live & the Ministry of Manipulation, all of which could also be viewed as 'competition' to a new website that wants to be a hub in the community, why? Because they are all important sites that fill a niche. The Bene Gesserit have an axiom: "Always support strength. Never support weakness."

fak - - Parent

Re: The Inception of the Edge

OK, let's try out this q tag, see what it looks like:

I am not on a crusade to convert rec.jugglers. Using rec.juggling is not a sin & rec.jugglers do not need to be taught the error of their ways. I just want to attract interesting jugglers with something to say. I don't care where they come from. To do this (when the site is Ready™) I will be approaching lots of interesting people personally, I will try to pique their interest with one or two thought provoking questions & ask that they contribute a Big Post. I will not be standing up in rec.juggling & shouting, "Come & use my forum!" As I said in my original Big Post I am well aware how many discussion forums have failed, I would even go as far as to say I'm more aware than most people. Which is why I won't be repeating their mistakes.

I'm a little bit more confused now, since previously you had said that you wanted to replace rec.juggling, then went on to say

I'm not sure I understand your concern about rec.juggling filling a gap. Surely that is a good thing? If rec.juggling provides you with value that's good isn't it?

particularly when combined with

Succession is a tricky thing. For a new product to replace an old one, merely being better is not enough. It has to be *much* better.

With just Small Talk and Big Talk I think The Edge is missing out on a range of conversations that fall in the middle of those two. Topics that aren't chat (which Small Talk seems to be at the moment) but that aren't big serious topics that require 24 hours thinking time before posting (Big Talk). Unless The Edge provides somewhere for these topics to be discussed I think people will continue to use r.j. for that. If they are using r.j. for the "medium" talk, chances are they're going to continue using r.j. for the small and big talk too (why visit several websites to discuss a topic when you can do it all in one place?). If you want to replace r.j. for online juggling discussions (and I'm now confused as to whether you do or not or to what extent) then The Edge needs to be better than r.j. Without space for "medium" talk, I don't think it will be.

As I said before, maybe I just don't understand what goes into Small Talk and what goes into Big Talk, but there are lots of topics I could think of that I wouldn't put in either - festival announcements and reviews, prop reviews, show announcements, etc (off the top of my head). Would these sorts of topics be covered by other sections of The Edge? At the moment I wouldn't put them in Small Talk as that moves too quickly (and I'm finding it hard to read atm, but I'll deal with that in ST), but would want faster feedback/input/replies than 24 hours, which rules out Big Talk.

Orinoco - - Parent

Re: The Inception of the Edge

I'm a little bit more confused now,

I'm approaching this project from two angles: as a developer & as a user. When I talk about this site I'm obviously not distinguishing which point of view I am coming from.

When I said I want to replace rec.juggling for myself on a personal level I was speaking as a user. I mean I want to wake up in the morning & instead of thinking, "I must check rec.juggling" I want to think, "I must check the Edge". I don't like using rec.juggling anymore & I get very little value out of it. I use it because it is what I have always used & there are no viable alternatives. I am ready to jump ship. I don't think I'm alone in this. But there are no other ships that I want to jump to. No one else has stepped forward (although the recent announcement of a new IJA site sounds promising) so I'm giving it a go.

I'm speaking as a developer when I say that I understand that other people like yourself still do get value out of rec.juggling. I would be delighted if I could replace rec.juggling for you on a personal level, but I am not going to be badgering Colin to shut down the IJDb portal to do so. I want to attract users by being better than the competition, not by removing the competition. Hence the succession comment. Still speaking as a developer I don't see the point in creating a carbon copy of rec.juggling, that's just not going to work. Which is why I am tying something different.

I am a very abnormal user - I'm on dial-up (yes, seriously) I browse with images, plugins & javascript off, my browser is set up with shortcuts that allow me to enable these features when I want them. On this site I have embedded videos & images turned off, I find writing html & css simple, & I can follow small talk very easily without aids (which are coming I promise!). I think I am pretty much the polar opposite of most web users today which may explain some of my more conflicting statements! This is why I have invited you normal users to help me along.

So to address your idea of 'Medium Talk', the topics you suggest (festival announcements and reviews, prop reviews, show announcements) I would put in small talk - which yes at the moment could get lost, but as other sections come online I want to provide the user with a way to link these conversations to the festival/show/manufacturer/whatever listing. These conversations will then be easily accessed from the listing it is attached to.

I note there are currently 16 upcoming festivals/workshops in the events database coming up in the next month, only one of which has been announced on rec.juggling & on headliner this has disappeared to page 3 with no replies. Very few people are discussing events on rec.juggling either & that's what I'm concerned about.

I've previously said to LP that my only qualification I have for this job is that I'm willing to give it a go. I've never done anything of this (potential) scale before & I am working things out as I go along. Every page is hand coded in notepad using references from a teach yourself PHP book published in 2000 & frequent Googling. I think the code side of things is going pretty well, but my ability to communicate what I'm doing is obviously lacking. Already I feel that I'm spending too much time talking & not enough time coding! Perhaps I'm not keeping enough of a distance? Have I made a mistake in inviting people to take a look so early? Should I have waited until I had a more complete package to show people? Do you feel that I am wasting your time? I really hope that you'll stick with me on this, there is still much more to offer.

fak - - Parent

Re: The Inception of the Edge

"When I said I want to replace rec.juggling for myself on a personal level I was speaking as a user. I mean I want to wake up in the morning & instead of thinking, "I must check rec.juggling" I want to think, "I must check the Edge"."

Ah, see I was asking the question as to whether The Edge was intended to replace r.j. to you the developer, not you the punter. You can probably assume that anytime I ask a question here it is to you the developer (unless I specify otherwise). I have always been replying to you the developer. That changes quite a lot (I may have to re-read and re-reply).

"So to address your idea of 'Medium Talk', the topics you suggest (festival announcements and reviews, prop reviews, show announcements) I would put in small talk - which yes at the moment could get lost, but as other sections come online I want to provide the user with a way to link these conversations to the festival/show/manufacturer/whatever listing. These conversations will then be easily accessed from the listing it is attached to."

It sounds like there is a planned space for such topics, which is what I was concerned about, so that's all good. I still personally wouldn't put them in Small Talk at the moment but that might just be me.

The Void - - Parent

Re: The Inception of the Edge

[Damn browser-crashes. I should know better than to compose a long post in-browser. Right then, long type take 2...]

[This post may be posted as a reply to the wrong post - sorry.]

Hi Orin,
Thanks for the elucidations. It's good to hear that there is much more planned for The Edge (what will the acronym be?[1] TE? TJE? Incidentally, fyi there is an entertainment agency also called The Edge http://www.theedge-uk.com/ ) than just the Talk stuff. It makes me more of a mind to Switch.

Connections.... not sure about this - how it will work out, what it's *for* etc - but the idea of it does not repel me, so I'm prepared to see where it leads.

Awards I am similarly ambivalent about.

Leaderboards. You post your example of the Gladiator leaderboard, which I assume you have done because it's a feature you're thinking of adding. But you also say "Records, I have no strong feelings on this one...". Aren't they essentially the same thing?

Big Talk (if used "correctly") has the potential to morph into something akin to the IJDb Compendium[2]. Good, I think? Perhaps a possible Search feature would therefore be a more important feature for Big than Small. (But then I suppose if you'd be implementing one, no reason not to implement the other.)

Invitations. How will this work? Who will get the power to issue them, when, and how many?

Some suggestions
- User profile field/link to the user's Jay Tee Vee[3] account(because this one comes first in the list, obviously ;-) );youtube account;vimeo account. Someone suggested (in the RJ JU thread, I think, which had by then turned to IJDb improvements) that it would be nice to have a better way of finding people's videos. I concur. Other optional user profile fields would no doubt suggest themselves. (DOB, anyone? ^_^)

- Events
1) I seem to get that you are saying that (eg) Crawley, would be a repeating event, with the details updated each year. To this, the archivist in me says "so whence last year's data?". I hope that there is scope for "repeating events" and also "specific events", the latter being incorporated/linked into the former where relevant. I like the idea of the watching/promting thing too.
2) ... and thus hopefully all the past event data from IJDb could be imported, and "events attended per user" kept/rebuilt. ("Import list of attended events" would be neat, but probably v. low on your priority list).
3) "Eventually I'd like to collect & store post-festival data such as attendance figures, budget etc. as a resource for future organisers". Another past suggestion from RJ was that past events could have links to photo albums and videos therefrom. I like that idea, although it would probably need an editor to vet submitted links. (Spam problem?)

- Site swaps. Headliner has a neat feature of turning valid site swaps into clickable links to animations. Not something that I use much, if ever, but it's something that Da Kids™ might like.

- Clubs
Your planned improvements sound good. I suspect Mini will jump on you to ask/demand to become/stay the Clubs editor. :-)

That's enough for now, cheers.

[1] And come to that, what will the site name/url be? Is The Edge the settled name? Any thoughts of becoming the *actual* new version of "IJDb", or are you determined to make a clean break? Both approaches have merits...
[2] Re-reading through things, I see you've already said this.
[3] Big Talk seems to do funny things to the unobfuscated version of this.

Orinoco - - Parent

Re: The Inception of the Edge

Th' rose by any other name...

erm... I'm calling it the Edge, what are you calling it?!

There are lots of things with edge in their title. TWJC also stands for Tunbridge Wells Jazz Club, The Windsor Jeep Club, Transit Workers for a Just Contract, the Textile Worker's Joint Comittee, Tuesdays With Jesus Christ or Terengganu World Jetrace Challenge. Unfortunately the number of things that can be named is catching up with the number of names we can give them.

I don't want the Edge to be the IJDb 2 for a number of reasons. Most importantly, I'd like the Edge to be able to stand on its own feet rather than just inherit its userbase from the IJDb. I don't want to get into the inevitable, "but the old IJDb did it this way..." arguments. I also think it would be a shame to trample over Colin's achievement. I don't want a load of people to hate Colin for letting a moron & a bunch of Squirrels take the IJDb's good name in really bizarre directions (timers limiting posting?! WTF is he thinking!!!). If the IJDb is to go I'd like to remember it for the awesome site it was, & if the Edge is to take off I want it to be judged on its own merit.

Succession is a tricky thing. For a new product to replace an old one, merely being better is not enough. It has to be *much* better. Take DVDs over VHS video cassettes, they are better in every way. This lead to a meteoric switch. Blu Ray on the other hand is essentially the same as DVD, just better picture/sound quality. Uptake of Blu ray has been much slower. I've got a lot of work to do. I've got to surpass IJDb functionality, to do that I'm going to be taking a lot of risks on experimental features.

Your comments on various features

Leaderboards/Records being the same thing - hmm, you're not wrong there...

Invitations - you will now have experienced in all their glory. How was it for you? My current plan is to issue 1 to every user every week.

Extra fields for profile data - I'm not keen, a user can already add everything you suggest & the next big website that doesn't exist yet. I quite like the fact that a user's profile is a blank canvas that you can do (almost) anything with. Creative people will have better profile pages, this will encourage others to experiment themselves. You never know what you are going to find on someone's profile, which I hope will encourage exploration. I will keep a close eye on the situation though, as soon as it starts looking like Myspace I'm yanking the plug out of the server.

I could provide a method for creating the necessary HTML snippets for common links.

Siteswaps - yep, I've looked at the code for Headliner, I'd like to do it better. I think I could adapt the code I use on the Siteswap Calculator for validation (Headliner only validates vanilla siteswaps, if it comes across something that looks like a multiplex/synchronous siteswap it assumes it is valid) as well as link to Juggling Lab (Quantum Juggler?) a subscript of the number of props would be nice too.

The Void - - Parent

Re: The Inception of the Edge

Re: Edge/IJDb/names. All fair enough, I was just curious, not trying to suggest a direction.

Invitations.... worked. (Perhaps a default text could be offered at some point?) Will the Edge remain invitation-only after testing is over? That's the impression I get.

You are correct about the data fields in the profile. (I was going to ask what I had done wrong with the {a} tags[1] I'd used in mine, but you seem to have fixed that). This will become easier when there is a 'buttons' provision for making links etc, so cool.

You didn't reply to my points about Events, but I suppose I stop pre-empting your directions, and start post-empting them instead.

[1] I think some smarter html stripping is required, since it seems that the use of the less-than symbol is completely prohibited. e.g. In a post about site swap theory, someone might want to write something like ".... is a valid option for any period [less than] 10, and since 6 [less than] 10, it follows that......", which if typed in full would currently result in the error message "This message contains the following misplaced tags:".[2]
[2] Yep, that's pretty picky, but it's the sort of thing that would annoy me. And you did specify in my invitation that you wanted me here for my pedantry. :-)

Orinoco - - Parent

Re: The Inception of the Edge

I'm not worried about names. I think a lot of people put far too much emphasis on names, they will spend ages trying to come up with something that sounds $CurrentWordThatMeansGood. But in the end the name always comes to be associated with the quality of thing that is named so I'd rather spend my time hacking than brainstorming name ideas.

I would like to keep the invitation system going indefinitely, it should minimise the risk of spam accounts popping up. However, it does conflict with my desire to have comprehensive club/event/everything else listings but I will burn that bridge when I crash into it (I think that's how the saying goes).

What do you mean by a default text? If you mean a welcome screen for new users outlining features of the site then yes. I like the way the MyOpera community used to do it. You were taken to a page that listed various things that you could do in the community. Each section linked to a tutorial for that task, whenever you completed any of the tasks that particular section was faded out (but still readable & accessible if you want to revisit the tutorial).

Sorry, I didn't reply about events. Using your numbers:

1. Please tell the archivist within not to worry. New events will be created by copying not replacing the old data. Think of it like a thread with multiple posts, a recurring event will have multiple events.

2. Importing old event data would be something I'd love to do.

3. Like Dirk Gently I believe in the interconnectedness of all things. I want to implement the option to link Small Talk threads to any type of record within the Edge. So if someone posts a link to a review/photo album relating to a festival they (or a Squirrel) will be able to link it to that festival. These conversations will be accessible from the festival listing.

Noted on the HTML parsing & yes that is precisely the sort of pedantry you were enlisted for!

The Void - - Parent

Re: The Inception of the Edge

fak raises some great questions. Here are some [judgement value omitted] more.

Moderation?

Small/Big talk distinction seems arbitrary, and my suspicion is that it will be unclear to most people (including, currently, me) what belongs where. To me it seems like the Timer is the only clear distinction. A better definition is needed, I think.

Why would someone want to come here instead of RJ? RJ does what it does very well, via whichever means of access used. Various people will have their own loves/hates about the presentation thereof, but what exactly is there to tear me away from there to come here? (Cue the circular "No-one's using it because no-one's using it"/"Everyone's using it because everyone's using it" arguments).

IJDb is currently a 1-stop-shop for me for RJ, Club listings, Events (both future and past - It's nice to have my own personal list of events attended, which I would loose should IJDb close), and (personally, to a lesser extent) Members, Compendium, Records. (The videodb is screwed, and redundant nowadays, sad to say). If the Edge is "an alternative to RJ", then I don't want the other bits of the IJDb to disappear. And while the other bits are still there, then I probably want the Headliner portal to RJ to be there too.

If however, IJDbHeadliner (and the rest of IJDb?) is to die, then I want an alternative to also offer the very useful other bits that the IJDb currently does. This seems to me to not be within The Edge's remit (or is it just a case of "not yet"? Discussion forum only, or expanding to other things in time?), which brings me back to "why would I want to come here?".

Assuming I *did* end up here, I would hope to see the following functionality:
- search for old posts/keywords/etc.
- "View threads with new/recent posts"

Sorry if this is all sounding a bit negative - I dont mean it to be, and I'm trying not to compare apples to bananas, though in some senses this is inevitable. (I like bananas). I think I could come to like this format of forum, but it's early days yet.

Meanwhile, can I have another invitation please, as I didn't know exactly what I was signing up for, so I used VoidTest, and I'd rather be The Void (are_spaces_allowed?). (Or can you change my username?)

Cheers.

Orinoco - - Parent

Re: The Inception of the Edge

Indeed & I think I cover most of the issues raised in your post such as the Big/Small distinction, other sections etc. in my reply to Fak. As for the rest:

On the question of moderation the framework is in place for the God Emperor & the Knights of the Edge (guess who'll that will be!) to edit any message. I would like moderation to be limited to spam/porn removal only, although I don't anticipate much of this because I intend to keep the invite system indefinitely. Every user will get 1 new invite every week.

I have been known to react badly to apostrophe abuse but I will try to rein that in.

As for searching for old posts I am sort of in two minds about this, part of me doesn't want to include search because without it, if someone wants to find some information they will have to talk to someone!!! However, I am currently leaning more towards including it because as a species whatever it was that enabled us to survive without search has long ago atrophied away.

& of course I can change your username, I am the God Emperor of the Edge!

 

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